Ongoing debate in the media and elsewhere suggests that Ghanaians will no longer accept the opinions of political leaders without question. Eric Adjei, a retired politician, said the days when people voted based solely on a politician’s looks or charisma is over.
“When you have acquired some level of education, you become more politically aware. People are now confronting issues and saying ‘hang on’ we are just not going to let you come and bombard us with promises and then after four years you come back to us again and say please vote for me,” he said.
Adjei is happy that the media is offering an avenue for political discourse on campaign promises by the political parties.
Interim President John Mahama, the presidential candidate for the ruling National Democratic Congress, or NDC, is promising to provide school children with free laptops. And he has promised to build a public university in eastern Ghana. There are other promises too.
George Lawson is the deputy general secretary of the NDC. He said his party will ensure there are enough schools for Ghanaian children and that high school education is gradually made free. “Our aim is to give quality education to the Ghanaian, enforce free universal basic education and then again eliminate schools under trees,” he said.
Education is also dominating discussions in the New Patriotic Party, NPP.
Presidential candidate Nana Akufo Addo says if he becomes president, he will put up 350 classrooms and make high school free for all students. There are also promises to build housing units for Ghanaians, as well as provide loan guarantees to private developers for slum upgrading.
NPP member Mike Ocquaye said his party is offering better policies. “We want to come into government to help the people of Ghana. Our party is known as the party which brought in social policies that helped the masses in the previous government. We are looking forward to doing more for the masses,” he said.
However, not all Ghanaians agree that the candidates’ policies meet their basic needs.
Kwesi Plange is a freelance journalist. He said parties must show how the country’s economic gains are helping ordinary workers.
“If at the end of the day the people asses their lives and realize that, ‘when I compare myself with the guy I give power to represent me, I see him riding a free car, he has a free house, he has servants in tow. I mean he is able to afford all the basic things of life.
Then it takes away the motivation to be part of the electoral process," he added.
Obiri works for the non- profit organization, Center for Environmental Impact Analysis. He said most of the manifestos are silent on environmental issues.
“Let’s focus on the environment, let’s focus on natural resource governance. If we are able to get these two things right, we’ll be able to do everything right,” he said.
Obiri said problems such as high arsenic poison in blood samples of residents along polluted water bodies in the central region of Ghana could be solved if political parties gave priority to environmental issues.
The Ghanaian think-tank Institute of Economic Affairs, or IEA, is giving presidential candidates an opportunity to debate the issues. The IEA says the debates will help promote accountability among the presidential candidates and public discourse on their manifestos.